Monday Over Coffee: "Influencer"

Published December 4, 2023 by Greg Funderburk

I resolved ahead of time to eat absolutely everything put in front of me. Or at least to try it. I’d made reservations at a well-reviewed Nordic restaurant in Finland—one I’d found on a “foodie” website with a pre-set tasting menu—and felt a distinct sense of anticipation about what the evening might hold.

However, after arriving at my table at this sophisticated 18-seat dining establishment and looking over the menu, what I hadn’t anticipated was a first course of reindeer tartar, a second composed of beetroot, black garlic, and something called eryngi, then an entree of lightly-smoked char and parsley. After this, I would be offered a lapsang granita with barbecued plum followed by dessert—a dish of lingonberries and rosemary—then a final digestive course described only as spruce and seabuckthorn. 

I understood very little of this.

In fact, even after a series of thorough explanations from the friendly waiter, I still didn’t know exactly what I was eating. While some of the plates were more amazing to look at than to consume, each one pleasingly engaged all the senses and was indeed beautifully presented. The service was also superb—the staff interesting and informative but not stuffy. The aesthetic of the place was cozy but still elegant, and I learned a whole lot about Nordic food and local farming. All in all, it was a memorable evening.

There was one thing, though, that I couldn’t quite figure out. To my left near a window by the door, there was a young woman sitting alone who seemed quite intent on capturing all her food on video. In addition, she was quietly talking into her phone almost the whole time—I supposed to a friend. It wasn’t entirely distracting, as occasionally she put her phone down to enjoy the food and her surroundings, but then just as quickly, she’d pick it back up again when a waiter or the head chef himself personally came to her table to describe the next dish. 

As the woman’s table wasn’t too far away, I was able to listen in a little, learning, as a matter of fact, that eryngi is a mushroom and later that seabuckthorn is often used medicinally—it’s said to slow the aging process. Likewise, whenever the restaurant’s sommelier came out to pour her wine, the woman would do the same thing, even recording his responses to her questions—questions that were all quite insightful, I must say. She asked him about the minerality of the soils in the region and how the wine she was drinking compared to other European wines, which she seemed to know a great deal about.

The whole evening made such an impression on me that as soon as I was able, I called my wife to tell her not only about all the food I’d tried but also about this odd woman who couldn’t seem to put her phone down. I told Kelly about how she was videoing both the wine guy as he talked about the minerality of the soils and the chef as he talked about eryngi and how seabuckthorn slows the aging process. 

“She was probably an influencer,” Kelly suggested. “Probably live-streaming to all her followers.”

 “People do that?”

“Yes, people do that.”

“Influencer” is kind of a loaded term now because many of the social media influencers who might first come to mind could be said to be influencing the culture not in a positive way but in a negative one. And of course, many of them are doing what they’re doing just to make money, to earn a living. But there’s something else there too, and it’s this—whether you like what a particular influencer is peddling or not, you’ve got to admire the passion many of them have. 

The woman at the restaurant, based on my perhaps not-so-subtle eavesdropping, not only knew about food, restaurants, and wine, but she was “all-in” about sharing her passion with others. She wanted people to know all about this particular restaurant, this up-and-coming chef, the remarkable food she was eating, and the wine they served. She had no hesitancy about sharing it with however many followers she had in the most vivid and compelling way she knew. 

Is there anything in your life like that? Something for which you have a similar evangelistic fervor? Something in your experience that’s so worth knowing that you’re committed to sharing it as effectively, creatively, vividly, urgently, and compellingly as you can with everyone within your sphere of influence? 

For her, it was food. What is it for you? 

Check, please.

God—Increase my desire to effectively broadcast Your name with creative passion to those within my sphere of influence. Amen.